Contributions by: Megan Otto & Reece Jensen, DPT, OCS
The line between work and home life has blurred over the past few months as many individuals have transitioned to working from home as a safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This “new normal” brings new challenges as well — such as learning when and how to turn off the work switch when your office is now a part of your home.
Maintaining a healthy work and life balance has been a constant struggle for individuals in the workforce, but many have experienced added stress since they’ve begun to work from home. A lack of a work and life balance can be detrimental to the body and lead to increased fatigue, poor overall health and a loss of time with family and loved ones.
“If work stress is not balanced and negated with exercise, rest or recreation, we tend to develop conditions that are bad for our health: tension headaches, bad digestion, low energy levels and poor sleep,” says Reece Jensen, DPT, OCS and a physical therapist with 30 years of experience. “These symptoms can occur, along with increased family or relationship stress.”
Setting limits such as scheduling specific work hours during the day and turning off your phone or computer after work, can help combat work stress. Learning to say “no” and detaching from work are also good boundaries to set.
It is also critical that you take time to care for yourself, both physically and mentally. Physical therapy is one way to make time for yourself and promote balance in your life. Physical therapy can teach healthy stretches and exercise routines to help improve body performance and prevent future injuries. Additionally, stretching and physical activity help burn off the physiological damage that can build up from stressful days at work.
Jensen suggests that managing stress is just another facet of physical therapy and rehabilitation.
“Life is about stress and there is no way around it. Having zero stress is actually more stressful and can be unhealthy,” says Jensen. “There is good, positive stress like motivation, desire, goal achievement and performance, as well as bad, negative stress like tension, frustration, fatigue, boredom, fear and personal safety. As physical therapists, we help teach patients to manage the negative stress and establish routines that promote good, positive stress.”
Stretching and physical activity force the body to focus on proper breathing which helps to reduce stress in the body. Specifically, stretching helps to reduce tension in muscles that have tightened under stress, which often occurs when sitting at a desk all day. Meanwhile, aerobic exercise for as little as 20 minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress, improve your mood, reduce symptoms of depression and lower cardiac risk factors.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to put methods into place to help achieve a healthy balance between work and home life and lower stress. But, don’t be afraid to reach out to your physical therapist for help. Whether you decide to add in a morning stretch or an evening workout to your daily routine, your physical therapist can guide you in what may be best for your body and help you achieve your desired work-life balance!
Special thanks to Reece Jensen, DPT, OCS, from our sister location PRN Physical & Hand Therapy in Encinitas, California. If you are experiencing pain or increased stress, give us a call today! Our trusted physical therapists are here to help you manage any aches and pains related to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.